How Often Do Governors Say No? The 2009 Edition
(Editor’s Note: Each year, Peter Detwiler, the indefatigable chief consultant of the Senate Local Government Committee compiles a listing of bills signed and vetoed. This listing now stretches back to the first year of Ronald Reagan’s governship in 1967. Here are highlights of this year’s version. The complete listing is HERE.)
“Each bill passed by the Legislature shall be presented to the Governor. It becomes a statute if it is signed by the Governor. The Governor may veto it by returning it with any objections to the house of origin, which shall enter the objections in the journal and proceed to reconsider it.”
California Constitution, Article IV, §10 (a)
- Schwarzenegger has set a record for signing the fewest bills in a single year, approving only 632 of the measures that reached his desk in the 2009 regular session.
- The Legislature passed just 872 bills in 2009, the fewest in more than 40 years.
- Schwarzenegger vetoed 240 bills, 27.52 of those sent to him – a sharp drop from last year’s record of 414 vetoes.
- Schwarzenegger signed the lowest annual average number of bills (790 a year over six years).
- Deukmejian vetoed the most bills (2,298 over eight years). However, with 1,673 vetoes over his six years, Schwarzenegger is close to Deukmejian’s rate of 287 vetoes a year.
- Deukmejian vetoed the most bills in a single year (436 in 1990).
- Schwarzenegger has vetoed nearly twice as many bills in six years (1,673) as Reagan did in eight years (843).
- In his five years, Davis vetoed twice as many bills (1,098) as Brown did in eight years (528).
- In 1982, Brown vetoed just 30 bills, setting the record for the lowest number of vetoes.
- Wilson signed the fewest bills of any recent, two-term governor (9,324 over eight years).
- Although political conservatives, Deukmejian and Reagan signed more bills than Brown, the more activist liberal.
- The five years with the highest number of chaptered bills were all with Republican governors (1971, 1984, 1967, 1990, 1988).
Fewest Chaptered Bills
632 2009 Schwarzenegger
729 2005 Schwarzenegger
750 2007 Schwarzenegger
763 2008 Schwarzenegger
909 2003 Davis
910 2006 Schwarzenegger
Most Chaptered Bills
1,821 1971 Reagan
1,760 1984 Deukmejian
1,725 1967 Reagan
1,707 1990 Deukmejian
1,647 1988 Deukmejian
1,644 1982 Brown
436 1990 Deukmejian
414 2008 Schwarzenegger
372 1998 Deukmejian
362 2000 Davis
351 1998 Wilson
336 1992 Wilson
30 1982 Brown
35 1981 Brown
49 1978 Brown
58 2003 Davis
60 1979 Brown
61 1968 Reagan
Highest Percent Vetoed
35.17 2008 Schwarzenegger
27.52 2009 Schwarzenegger
24.58 2004 Schwarzenegger
24.53 1998 Wilson
24.14 2005 Schwarzenegger
Lowest Percent Vetoed
1.79 1982 Brown
2.87 1981 Brown
3.31 1978 Brown
3.97 1968 Reagan
4.40 1979 Reagan
4.43 1980 Brown
Who signed the most bills?
Reagan 12,486 1,561/year
Brown 10,753 1,344/year
Wilson 9,324 1,166/year
Davis 5,144 1,029/year (Five years)
Schwarzenegger 4,738 790/year
Who vetoed the most bills?
Deukmejian 2,298 287/year
Wilson 1,890 236/year
Schwarzenegger 1,673 279/year
Davis 1,098 220/year (Five years)
Reagan 843 105/year
Brown 528 66/year
Notes & Sources
This information counts only bills from regular sessions, not bills in Extraordinary Sessions.
The “Chaptered Bills” column on page 3 includes bills that a governor allowed to become law without signature. See California Constitution, Article IV, §10 (b)(3). For example, in 2000 Governor Davis signed 1,088 bills and allowed four measures to become law without his signature for a total of 1,092 chaptered bills.
The numbers of chaptered bills come from the bound statutes for each year, plus information from the Office of the Governor. The numbers of vetoes come from file records kept in the Office of the Governor. Robert Williams, Deputy Legislative Secretary in several administrations, started those files in the 1950s. In subsequent administrations, the Governor’s legislative staff has maintained the files that Williams started.
Originally prepared December 22, 1998, by Peter Detwiler with additional research by Karen Morgan, Deputy Legislative Secretary to Governor Pete Wilson.
Revised October 11, 2000, with the assistance of Jane Leonard Brown, Committee Assistant.
Revised December 11, 2000, to correct computational errors, with the assistance of Casey Elliott, Office of Governor Gray Davis, and Jane Leonard Brown.
Revised October 17, 2001, with the assistance of Mike Gotch, Legislative Secretary to Governor Gray Davis, and Elvia Diaz, Committee Assistant.
Revised October 2, 2002, with the assistance of Mike Gotch, Legislative Secretary to Governor Gray Davis.
Revised October 14, 2003, with the assistance of Casey Elliott, Senior Legislative Assistant, Office of Governor Gray Davis.
Revised September 30, 2004, with the assistance of Cynthia Bryant, Chief Deputy Legislative Secretary to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Revised October 11, 2005, with the assistance of Cynthia Bryant, Chief Deputy Legislative Secretary to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Revised October 6, 2006, with the assistance of Cynthia Bryant, Chief Deputy Legislative Secretary to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Revised October 15, 2007, with the assistance of Mikhael Skvarla, Legislative Assistant to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Revised and revised again to correct data errors on October 1, 2008, with the assistance of Mikhael Skvarla, Legislative Assistant to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Revised October 12, 2009, with the assistance of Jacque Roberts, Assistant Legislative Secretary to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
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